Have you noticed?
Ferguson. ISIL (the terrorist group formerly known as ISIS). Iran (again). Russia (again).
The Duck Dynasty dude is a fellow Christ follower, but I can’t help but be pretty discouraged by that right now. The Robertsons have done a lot to show the world their faith on A & E’s Duck Dynasty–great. But Phil has spoken out and gone beyond what Jesus teaches regarding our enemies. Let me sum up what he’s said we should do about the members of ISIL:
That’s a fabulous statement to come from the star of a family television program, huh? It sounds so…Jesusy!
There are so many Christ followers who take Scripture and use it to promote violence against people who don’t believe or who threaten our way of life. The attitude starts to permeate throughout entire countries, which I understand is a sweeping generalization on my part. I believe that it is an attitude that the majority of humanity seems to make, though. When it comes to labeling countries by religion, what religion does ours get tagged as most often? What about Qatar? Honduras? New Zealand or Myanmar? You probably answered Christian, Muslim, Christina, Christian, and “where is Myanmar?“
Granted, there’s a lot of language in the Bible about the Day of the LORD and the great smackdown that’s coming. People look at that language and assume that they can use the passages to affirm use of force against anyone they deem to be worthy of receiving God’s wrath.
To wit, from Psalm 2:1-2 and 9-12.
2:1-2 — Why do the nations conspire and the people plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.’
2:9-12 — “You [God] will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery. Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
I feel like every country believes it’s exempt from being the subject of Psalm 2:1 without considering that we march straight on to champion verses 9-12. The fact is, every country thinks that it’s in the right, and when religion gets tossed into the mix?
Christ followers aren’t exempt from developing this attitude either, which is ironic since we follow a teacher who advocated laying down your own life before taking someone else’s. Is it any wonder how Jesus-loving people who read the Psalms start saying things like:
“They better bow down to Jesus before it’s too late!”
“They’ll get what’s coming to them!”
Gary Cass of Charismanews.com, the website for a Christian magazine, has recently written an article calling for us Christ followers to convert, deport, or kill Muslims. (Tangent: I assume that he believes that the U.S.A. is a [mostly] Christian nation that should be tasked to accomplish this, along with other countries immersed in Christendom.) This guy is a reverend–a pastor. He is someone who is supposed to lead people to Rabbi Jesus, the advocate of laying down your life for the Kingdom of God as a sacrifice.
But Jesus never talked about laying down your life as a sacrifice for your country. Sacrificial death is always for the Kingdom. Jesus was pretty clear that the Kingdom transcends national boundaries, political bent, and ideologies.
From Matthew 5 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[c] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
These are hard teachings to live by, with good reason! They cut against the grain of how we’re raised and are difficult to apply. Does Jesus mean that we should fight back if being attacked? Should a Christ follower idly stand by and watch their family hurt?
I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind. There’s a key word He uses: persecute. Jesus is talking about refraining from retaliation when someone who is persecuting you for what you believe. Is that what Cass is describing when he advocates for us to teach children how to shoot guns so when the Muslims [cue daunting music] come to pillage, we’re ready? Maybe we should start dialoguing with Muslims instead of cocking our weapons.
From Colossians 1:21-22 — “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
The problem with many who read Psalm 2, or similar portions of Scripture, as justification for violence is they forget that they, too, were enemies of God. Gary Cass was, at one time, an enemy of God. Yet the LORD was not raising up people calling down destructive forces over his head. Nothing makes us better than Muslims or any other people of faith different than ours. Simply because we believe in Jesus does not give us license to declare to the ends of the earth that destruction is coming for other people. This may have been true before Jesus arrived on the scene–and only for the select few that God raised up–but Rabbi Jesus teaches us to kill only one person: our selfish, sinful nature. (And we can’t even do that without God’s help!)
Hear me well. I believe that we need to protect ourselves. I believe that we need to use force to protect the weak, oppressed, and needy. ISIL needs to be brought to justice for executing journalists and other atrocities. What I do not believe is that Jesus is going to bless any attempt to fight radical Muslims without our willingness to lay down our lives for them first.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16
Does ISIL need to be stopped by force? Probably. But let’s stop using Jesus as justification for it. In the name of Jesus, stop talking about killing our enemy. In the name of Jesus, pray for those who persecute us. In the name of Jesus, let us explore extreme ways of handling conflict that promotes peace instead of more violence. In the name of Jesus, let us lay down our lives in sacrifice for His Kingdom.
I am keenly aware that I wrote this in a safe, comfortable setting. I don’t have to worry about any members of ISIL attacking me, or any other group harming me because of my beliefs or nationality. So if you think I’m not being realistic, just consider this preaching to myself. After all, I’ve got to practice for if/when I’m ever in a situation that calls for me to radically love an enemy.